Photo: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Photo: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

College student: Enlist faculty in fight for fairer grading during pandemic

Dispirited public college students are losing faith the University System of Georgia will listen to their pleas for a pass/fail option as many struggle with the migration of 40,000 classes online.

Students are still pressing for pass/fail through letters or petitions, including at Kennesaw State, the University of GeorgiaGeorgia SouthernValdosta State, Georgia Tech, and the University of Georgia and Georgia State University law schools.

While thousands have signed petitions and contacted the USG and their own colleges, Georgia continues to ignore the example of hundreds of campuses, including MIT, Duke, Harvard, Emory, Agnes Scott, Stanford and Princeton, that have created a pass/fail option.

Except for a press statement insisting Georgia students will rise to the occasion, the USG, along with college presidents and faculty, are mostly avoiding public comment. The tack seems to be to wait out the student fervor.

Jorge Delgado, a sophomore computer science student at Georgia State University, does not believe USG will make a change to pass/fail. Instead, he is urging his peers to ask professors to individually modify their policies in the wake of a pandemic that has shut down the country.

“While this seems like something obvious that professors would have done, many haven't, especially in STEM courses,” he said. 

Jorge Delgado

Delgado has constructed a sample email that he wants students to send to professors with the hope some will adapt their policies in acknowledgement that the abrupt shift to distance learning doesn’t serve students well, especially those who lack the essential technology to even access classes and tests.

Several college administrators have admitted off the record that not all professors have been able to transition their classes online effectively, and a few have failed to consider the plight of students for whom distance learning remains a hurdle. (That includes students who returned home to different time zones so an 8 a.m. class is 5 in the morning for them.)

Among problems relayed to me by students and parents: Testing glitches, inaudible or unintelligible lectures, content reduced to PowerPoints or slides and unruly Zoom gatherings.

(This morning, I listened to a public meeting of the Georgia Board of Regents, the appointed body that oversees higher education, via conference call. There was so much background noise and static that it was like listening to traffic reports from a helicopter over I-285 at rush hour. )

Here is the email Delgado wrote as as a template for other students: 

Good afternoon,

I am sending you this email because of my concerns with this class going online and how it could affect my grades and those of other students.

I appreciate the efforts that you, the teaching assistants and other faculty have made to keep class running as usual. However, it's hard to ignore the fact that because this class has been moved online, there are some clear disadvantages, and, compared to the students in earlier semesters, students enrolled in the class now are at a disadvantage.

It's unlikely that we will see changes from USG on pass/fail, so, unfortunately, any changes would have to come down to the individual professor.

I understand normally professors would not make changes to their policies, however, these are not normal times. I'm requesting that you please look into opportunities for students to make up for grades they may have done poorly on since our transition to online classes. 

Whether it be giving extra credit assignments or minor grade replacements/makeups, other students and I would appreciate these changes immensely.

Once again, thank you for your efforts, and I would hope at the very least that you give this email some consideration.

Sincerely,

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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